Again and again, the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach is proven to be a powerful tool in teaching students with dyslexia and other language-based learning challenges. Its structured, multi-sensory approach is unmatched in its effectiveness in literacy instruction. But what about its application in an intervention setting? Reading interventionists have a unique position in the learning-to-read pipeline; their instructional knowledge and strategy must equip them to handle any learning situation. Orton-Gillingham is invaluable in reading intervention as an essential asset for educators seeking to make a difference.
The success of OG lies in the tailored approach provided to each individual’s unique learning needs. This personalized methodology becomes even more vital for reading interventionists– ensuring all students receive comprehensive and targeted support, whether they are beginners struggling with the basics or more advanced readers struggling with comprehension.
What Does Orton-Gillingham Look Like in Intervention?
The OG approach focuses on building foundational skills, addressing gaps, and fostering reading fluency. The multi-sensory nature of OG engages students’ different learning modalities, following a structured sequence teaching phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. A key distinction of OG in intervention is its ability to identify and target specific areas of struggle while also considering the learner’s strengths.
One-on-one intervention, especially using approaches like Orton-Gillingham, is highly personalized and focused on addressing the specific needs of the individual learner. It begins with an initial assessment to understand the learner’s current reading and spelling abilities, as well as their strengths and challenges. Based on the assessment results, the educator develops an individualized lesson plan that targets the learner’s areas of difficulty. These lessons are sequenced logically, starting with foundational skills and progressing to more complex concepts.
OG utilizes multisensory techniques to engage multiple senses and enhance learning, including activities like tapping out syllables or using manipulative materials. Through these activities, the educator will work on building the reader’s skills of:
- Phonological awareness
- Reading practice
- Spelling and writing
- Sight words and vocabulary
Regular review sessions should reinforce previously learned concepts and ensure retention, along with ongoing assessments to track the learner’s progress and make any necessary adjustments to the instruction. As the learner becomes more proficient in foundational skills, the tutor gradually introduces more complex reading materials and challenges.
Orton-Gillingham Activities for Intervention
Engage students with familiar games while sneakily incorporating learning components. Create a BINGO card grid and place syllables, sounds, or morphemes in the grid spaces. The teacher will dictate a concept, and if the students have it on their board, they will cover the concepts with a token until someone has BINGO. This activity not only reinforces morphemic awareness but builds comprehension.
Help students master irregular words through multisensory review. Create a stack of cards containing the words your students are learning. Reveal the words one by one by holding the cards with your non-dominant hand in front of you. Have students tap left to right using their dominant hand. Right-handed students start with their right hand on their left shoulder, and left-handed students start with their left hand on their right wrist. State each letter of the word while your students tap down their arms, and once they tap out each letter, state the whole word while creating a sweeping motion down the arm. Think of this sweeping motion as underlining the word.
Sound Repetition to Word Building
For struggling readers who have a difficult time with phonological awareness, hands-on activities can make all the difference; plus, engaging visual, auditory, and tactile (fine motor) pathways never hurt. Take a plastic tray, cookie sheet, tabletop, or other medium and cover them with shaving cream or sand. Call out a known sound and have your students repeat the sound. Then, they should use their fingers to write the letter that makes that sound while verbalizing the letter name and sound (/d/ d says /d/). By utilizing their fingers to write the letter, they are accessing thousands of nerve endings that transfer patterns to the brain while solidifying the connection between sounds and letters.
While OG is an intervention tool with countless success stories, effective implementation requires well-trained educators. Finding the right OG training program is crucial for interventionists to get the best results with their students. The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE) stands as a leader in OG training, offering expert-led comprehensive courses that equip educators to unlock the transformative power of OG and create an inclusive, empowering, and effective learning environment for struggling readers at any level.
Orton-Gillingham’s personalized, multi-sensory approach bridges gaps and empowers struggling readers to unlock their full potential. By embracing Orton-Gillingham and accessing top-notch training through IMSE, reading interventionalists can make a lasting difference in the lives of their students.
For every student, one of the modalities mentioned in the image above is usually predominant. Some students may prefer to see a visual representation of an image to grasp it, while others may choose to use their hands.
According to Dr. Samuel Orton’s research, brain dominance significantly impacts learning to read. Both hemispheres of the brain act and react, think and process, and solve problems in their own specific and quite different ways, and one side is usually dominant.
A student can capitalize on their strengths and strengthen their weaknesses when all four learning pathways are utilized within a lesson. Educators also have a higher chance of students grasping the concept during initial instruction.
Many believe the Orton-Gillingham approach is only beneficial in special education or reading intervention, but that is just not the case. Orton-Gillingham is for all students.
Multisensory Orton-Gillingham Activities
Every student learns at their own pace, but when multisensory (also known as multimodal) strategies are utilized, students are given the opportunity to reach their full potential through various delivery styles.
Check out these five activities that you can begin using in your classroom today!
Read it, Build it, Write it
Consider using this Orton-Gillingham activity when teaching Red Words or irregular words (i.e. ‘does’ or ‘was’). Students need to be able to master these words that do not fit the expected spelling patterns.
Start by giving each student a sheet of paper with three boxes on it with the labels “Read It,” “Build It,” and “Write It.” Additionally, you should provide your students with Red Word flashcards, block or magnetic letters, and a pencil or crayon.
Read the irregular words in the “Read It” box aloud with your students. Students are then asked to identify what makes the word irregular and what is unexpected in the spelling pattern. Students should then use the block or magnetic letters to build out the word in the “Build It” box. Once they successfully build it out, the students should write it in the “Write It” box.
Writing in Shaving Cream or Sand
This Orton-Gillingham activity utilizes visual, auditory, and tactile (fine motor) pathways. Take a plastic tray, cookie sheet, tabletop, or other medium and cover them with shaving cream or sand. Call out a known sound and have your students repeat the sound. Then they should use their fingers to write the letter that makes that sound while verbalizing the letter name and sound (/d/ d says /d/). By utilizing their fingers to write the letter, they are accessing thousands of nerve endings that transfer patterns to the brain.
You can also use this strategy for whole words, but be sure they are phonetic words that follow expected spelling patterns.
Writing in the Air
This Orton-Gillingham activity is similar to the shaving cream or sand activity but instead uses kinesthetic (gross motor) pathways. Utilize muscle memory to reinforce the letter and sound each letter makes through air writing.
Your students should use their dominant arm for this activity and move from the shoulder to promote large muscle movement. As the students write the letter in the air, have them visualize it in a specific color while verbalizing the letter name and sound.
This Orton-Gillingham activity helps students master irregular words through multisensory review.
Start this activity with a stack of cards containing the words your students are learning. State the words one by one while holding the card, with your non-dominant hand, in front of you. Ensure your students can see the word by making sure the card is at eye level with them.
Have students tap left to right using their dominant hand. Right-handed students start with their right hand on their left shoulder, and left-handed students start with their left hand on their right wrist. State each letter of the word while your students tap down their arms, and once they tap out each letter, state the whole word while creating a sweeping motion down the arm. Think of this sweeping motion as underlining the word.
Take phoneme cards and place them in CVC (consonant vowel consonant) order on the blending board. Place your hand over each card while your students sound them out, and once they state each sound, sweep your hands across the board and have your students state the word or syllable.
You can use VC patterns or start with a continuant sound versus a stopped sound with students who struggle.
Bringing Orton-Gillingham strategies into your classroom creates endless opportunities for your students. For more insights and strategies, visit the links below:
- Search “Orton-Gillingham Activities” or “Multi-sensory Activities” on Pinterest to find hundreds of exciting ideas you can implement in your classroom immediately.
- Check out the IMSE YouTube Channel, where you’ll find several helpful videos about teaching open and closed syllables, three-part writing drills, and more!
Multi-sensory instruction, such as Orton-Gillingham, typically refers to visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic pathways (VATK).
According to the research of Dr. Samuel Orton, strengths or preferences will vary from student to student but using more than one method will help students better retain information.
3 Components of Multi-Sensory Instruction
Multi-sensory instruction can be broken down into these three components:
- Visual Learning
- Auditory Learning
- Tactile/Kinesthetic Learning
The most critical aspect of multi-sensory instruction, such as Orton-Gillingham, is having students use more than one of their senses. The most effective strategy for children with difficulties learning to read has proven to be using multi-sensory techniques.
However, multi-sensory instruction is not just for students that have learning disabilities. According to The Ladder of Reading (Nancy Young, 2017), only 40% of learners can learn to read effortlessly or with relative ease and comprehensive instruction. That leaves 60% of all learners to benefit from instruction like Orton-Gillingham.
Orton-Gillingham helps you to tap into your students’ sensory learning pathways. That’s why multi-sensory learning and explicit instruction are the most concrete methods for teaching a new concept.
Multi-Sensory Instruction: Visual Learning
When we think about the visual component, we think about the sense of sight. Students should see visuals that represent the meaning of what is being taught.
Showing written-out directions is an example of a visual modality. Teachers can provide students with handouts, a slideshow, or other visual aids to help them follow along during a lesson.
Other visual aids include:
- Visual cues
- Written summaries
Multi-Sensory Instruction: Auditory Learning
When we think about the auditory component, we think about the sense of hearing. Students should hear the explanation of directions out loud.
Lesson plans should include social elements like:
- Paired reading
- Group work
- Oral reports
- Mnemonic devices
Rhymes, beats, or songs can reinforce information. Providing recordings of lessons can also be beneficial, so students can go back and listen to the lesson more than once.
Multi-Sensory Instruction: Kinesthetic/Tactile Learning
When we think about the tactile and kinesthetic components, we think about the sense of movement and touch. Tactile instruction incorporates using hands to do something, such as manipulating objects representing a concept. Kinesthetic instruction involves moving to focus and learn.
The main difference between the two strategies is tactile components focus on fine motor movements while kinesthetic components focus on whole-body movements. So, while arm tapping would be a kinesthetic strategy, finger tapping is a tactile strategy.
Methods that support kinesthetic and tactile instruction include:
- Providing hands-on tools
- Giving breaks to allow students to move around
- Using the outdoors
- Teaching concepts through games and projects
Even if you’ve already taught a lesson using auditory and visual elements, it can be highly beneficial to reinforce that information through dance, play, or other activities.
Phonogram Review: Review sound-symbol correspondence with a rapid phonogram card drill
Simultaneous Oral Spelling: Repeat words, sound or spell words out using finger tapping, write words while saying letters, and read the completed word
Reading Words: Read a series of words and sentences that use the new pattern, as well as review words targeting skills that need particular practice
Everyone Benefits From Multi-Sensory Instruction
Our brains have developed to learn and grow in a multi-sensory environment. When teachers and educators introduce new material using multisensory learning, like Orton-Gillingham, they effectively cater to a more expansive audience of learners.
Multi-sensory instruction is used to teach all students effectively, especially those with learning differences. By using multiple senses, all learners have more ways to connect with what’s being taught.